Article

Internet Services: How To Protect Yourself

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Smelley - Also by this author

Web-based services for car dealers are abundant and the number grows daily. Most of these services are valuable, even necessary, tools for your dealership. The question is not, “do you want to sign up and use these services?” but, “can you do so safely?” and, “what to expect when using these services?” You should be concerned about privacy of information, accessibility and continuity of service. Your level of concern for these issues will depend on the services provided.
Web-based services can span a wide spectrum from purely informational Web sites to sites that require you to provide customer and/or dealership information which is necessary to render their service. The more sensitive the information being transmitted via the Internet the greater the concern for privacy issues. For example, retrieving vehicle history information presents no real security/privacy issues, as no sensitive information is transmitted to or from the service Web site. However, submitting customer credit applications when shopping for financing presents some real concerns regarding privacy laws. Identity theft possibilities and the proliferation or misuse of the information provided require some diligent inspection when considering new services. It is worth noting here that most identity theft is perpetrated by employees of vendors that may have access to sensitive or confidential information.

Always read your license agreement. This agreement defines the responsibilities of the vendor and is where privacy policies should be defined. Other information to look for in your license agreement should include: requirements for data encryption, limited secured access to your services, methods employed to assure confidentiality of information either stored or retrieved from your service and assurances of employee confidentiality regarding information. The relevance of these concerns will range from none to extremely relevant based on the services you will be provided. Low or no relevance should be attached if you are merely retrieving information. The more sensitive the information you provide, particularly if your information is retained by your service provider, the more relevance you should place on each of the above mentioned concerns. Consequently, you want to be sure that when relevance is high more, not less, protections are in place.

If you are going to utilize Web-based applications, be it a Dealership Management System, credit reporting service, or credit application service, you should have an employee use policy. It should state your dealership’s policy as to confidentiality of dealership, customer or employee information to which they may be privy. This policy should be in writing and signed by each employee. Your policy should also restrict the use of dealership contracted Internet services to dealership activities. One of the conveniences of Internet based services is that they can be accessed from locations other than one’s desk at work. This access, however, also creates the opportunity for information and services to be used for purposes other than those intended. Misappropriation of services and information is stealing and you should deal with it in the same manner. Consumer privacy has been at the forefront of legal topics for some time and justifiably so. Protect your dealership from potential legal liability by having a preemptive policy in place. Prevention is always more effective and less expensive than damage control.

Web-based services and applications can be a real asset to your dealership. I highly recommend that you use those services that can benefit your business. Just be aware of that not all services are equal; nor are all license agreements and that there is no such thing as totally secure. Identify your needs, verify your protections, make an informed choice and then get connected while protecting the higher profits you should realize.

Vol 3, Issue 2

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